The Department of Energy will extend Battelle’s contract to manage and operate its national laboratory in Richland for five years.
Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, the president’s chief energy officer, shared the welcome if not unexpected news during a reception following his high-profile visit Tuesday to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory with Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.
Battelle has operated the laboratory continuously since it opened in 1965. The current contract expires Sept. 30, 2017. The extension takes effect the following day.
Battelle’s potential annual fee for operating the lab will remain unchanged at approximately $12.5 million, DOE said. The new contract emphasizes partnerships between the lab and local and regional universities, namely Washington State University and the University of Washington.
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In May, DOE said it would not open the contract to competitors because Battelle consistently earned high marks on its annual report card. For 2015, it received four “A-minuses” and four “B-pluses” in areas ranging from mission accomplishments to security and emergency management.
The decision to forgo a bidding process set the stage to negotiate an extension. The contract was signed Tuesday by Battelle CEO Jeff Wadsworth.
Wadsworth said the company is proud of its long-term partnership with DOE.
“Working together, PNNL has distinguished itself as one of our nation’s premier national laboratories,” Wadsworth said. “And the Tri-Cities has established itself as a remarkable host for a DOE national laboratory.”
Steve Ashby, director of the lab, said work by the 4,400 employees earned the extension.
“Working together, we have achieved some remarkable scientific breakthroughs and have strengthened our nation’s energy, environment and national security posture,” Ashby said in a memo to the staff sent late Tuesday. “Your dedication to our many sponsors and passion for excellence is unmatched.”
PNNL has an annual operating budget of nearly $1 billion. Battelle is a nonprofit research and development corporation based in Columbus, Ohio. Through the lab, it has supported numerous community initiatives, including science and math education, the arts, the Reach museum in Richland and Delta High School.